Monday, December 2, 2013

The Last Post!

I can't believe this is my last post, it seems like I was just writing the bio post about William Baumol. In thinking back over my time in the class, I really enjoyed most of the topics and our class discussions. The class approach was different than many of my other classes which was refreshing to partake in.

One of my favorite lessons I learned in the class was about the principal-agent model and the role of capture. In thinking about organizations I never really considered the negative sides involving bribes or other ways in which one agent can capture or take advantage of the principal.  It was also informing to consider the difference between having one agent or two. There seems to be a lot more conflict in the second case due to the influence of capture. This lesson also makes me think back to the lesson on opportunism. I found it interesting that most people in the class explained how they avoided opportunism in their blog posts and in class discussion. It was difficult for people to think of a time in which they were opportunistic as often times it is done subconsciously. I think this can be a major problem in organizations if people sacrifice the good of the organization for their own personal gain.

I liked the way the class was structured in that the blogging related well to the class discussion. It helped me get a better understanding of the topics by reflecting on my own experience and making solid connections to the material. The one thing I would have liked to get more out of discussion would have been to have more context prior to the excel homeworks. The excel was often difficult to understand at first and I needed the explanation in the next class session to truly comprehend the material. I think it would have been helpful to have a little preview of the homework before it was assigned.

The blogging process was actually quite enjoyable. I was nervous at first because I am not one to put my opinions and thoughts out there for anyone to read. After a while, I used it more as a learning tool and almost forgot that others would be reading it. I also really liked getting comments on my ideas and responding to those comments. I learned where things were poorly explained through the questions asked in the comments. This helped me improve my writing over the course of the class. The blogging didn't take too much time and as I got into it, the time seemed to go by rather quickly. The excel homework was where most of my out-of-class time was spent. It was often difficult for me to understand the concepts as I had little context or knowledge about most of the topics before attempting the homework. I was able to complete all of the assignments, but I definitely needed our class sessions to explain the meaning behind the math. These assignments varied from taking 45mins-1 hr 30mins depending on the assignment.

One comment I have on the way class is run is that we often went off on tangents and then didn't ever get back to the main point and instead continued on with the lesson. While the tangents were enjoyable and informative, I often lost some of the meaning in the lesson because I couldn't decipher between the class material and the tangents.

I would again just like to say that I really did enjoy the class and feel like I learned not only about organizations but also useful blogging skills that I can bring into the professional world.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Branding and Reputation

I worked for Discover Financial Services last summer and was able to see that their main focus is on customer service. In terms of branding, they focus mainly on being the card used by your average, middle-class card member. As opposed to American Express who targets a higher class member, Discover focuses on the normal American consumer. In its current commercials, Discover promotes that its employees are just like the people calling them. Discover wants its members to know that when they call in, there will be a real person on the other end of the line that can assist them in whatever they need.
Below is a link to the Discover website where you can view some of the current commercials:

Discover is known for its customer service. It was ranked a close 2nd to American Express in the JD Power survey on customer satisfaction. Discover was only behind by a few points. They have also won numerous awards for customer service and follow the motto that the customer is always right. During my internship, I was able to visit one of the call centers and listen in on calls. The agents are not only incentivized to answer as many calls as possible, but more importantly they are incentivized to make the calls memorable and about the customer. Discover is a new company and used its customer service focus to get to the top of its industry.

I think there is a strong relationship between brand and reputation. Discover ties its branding of being a company for the average American with its reputation of customer service by providing exceptional service to anyone and not just a targeted class of people. Discover is the all encompassing brand where any customer can call in and feel like they are having a personalized experience. They don't want to be all fancy and technical, but instead treat their customers in a casual, yet still professional, way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Not to bring up my sorority...again.  But it has truly been a defining factor in my college years.  When I first became President, the only reputation I had was the one of being a good member.  People knew that I was organized and had the potential to be a great leader, but they knew nothing about my ability to be the face of the organization.

It was my job to set-up my reputation right from the start.  I began by setting expectations for the chapter that I would not falter on.  Those include things such as: coming to chapter, being composed at events, paying their dues, treating the executive board with respect, etc.
I knew that from the start I had to stick by my expectations as well as present a united front with my executive board.  If I faltered, I would have lost all of the respect I had built up and would have to start all over again so that members would learn that they can't walk all over me.

To keep my reputation intact I make sure that I stick by what I say.  If the executive board creates a new rule, we will all stand by the rule even if it is not popular because we know it is best for the house.  I also want to enhance my reputation by acknowledging when I am wrong.  If I make a mistake, I will own up to it because I want the house to see me as a trustworthy person who is confident enough to admit my own mistakes.

It was extremely difficult at first, especially because I was only a sophomore, not to give into the demands of the seniors.  They were older than me and thought they could take advantage of my position; however, I always stuck to my beliefs and eventually they realized I would not falter.  Building that relationship with them was important to building their trust in me as a leader.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


A real-life situation in which I was the middle agent between 2 other agents is with the National sorority organization and my specific chapter members. I am the intermediary between these two groups and must try to reconcile differences that occur.

As President of my chapter I must balance the requests of the National Council and what the chapter wants. As some background information, National Council is the governing body of all of my specific sorority in the United States. They set the rules and are the ultimate judicial board if anything were to go wrong. They want to see all of the individual chapters excel but may have more of an "old-time" view on sorority life as all of these members range in age from 30-70 or so.

What my general chapter members want is to enjoy their sorority experience. Most of them do not even know who is on the National Council. It is my job to take what my chapter wants to do and make sure if falls within the National Guidelines.

In terms of how they evaluate "good performance" by me, the 2 other agents see things very differently. The National Council thinks I'm doing a good job if I excel at all of their requirements (ex. implementing ritual activities into chapter events, raising a certain amount of money at philanthropy events, getting forms in on time, etc). The chapter believes I am doing well if I allow for fun activities that may or may not have to do with ritual. A lot of times chapter members want to push the envelope on what is allowed in terms of social events but I often have to reign in ideas. It can be difficult to try to explain to the chapter that National wants us to do things a certain way because the chapter doesn't have a real concept of the National organization.

I have tried to explain to the chapter that the National organization is not here to punish us, but rather help us understand why we were founded and what we stand for. So far, I haven't been able to complete resolve this discord.

I try not to satisfy one group more than the other. My best effort is to allow the chapter to do as much as they want as long as it falls within the National requirements. Most events end up working out, but sometimes the chapter may become angry because I must veto an event they want to hold.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Can't we just all get along?

Different work situations call for different courses of action. Sometimes things go well and other times work relationships and friendships can be sacrificed.  Both scenarios that will be described involve my organization and the executive board.

In the first scenario when things went well, my executive board had to deal with the problem of not allowing all members to live in the house. There were 60 girls who wanted to live in, however the house could only fit 55. We wanted to be fair in our judgements so we got to brainstorming how we could decide which members could live-in. Me and 2 other executive board members (the VP and the House Manager) discussed at length the different options. We all were able to keep calm even though this was a stressful situation because we were deciding where girls would potentially live for the next year. We decided to choose based off of points that they receive for going to certain events or achieving certain awards (GPA, philanthropy events, etc.). Having the three of us work together was best because the VP was able to gather all of the points, the House Manager was in contact with our House Director about an updates, and I (as President) was overseeing all operations.
We presented ourselves as a united front and knew that we would face some backlash. The girls who couldn't live in would not be happy with our decision but we felt that together we could explain or reasoning and help the girls find alternative housing as best as possible. Because of our diligent work and commitment to the sorority, we were able to resolve this issue rather quickly.

In a second scenario, the outcome was not the desired one. As President, it is my job to deal with any exec member who is not doing their job. While this may be difficult, it needs to be done for the best of the organization. The problem was that this executive board member did not have any of their events planned for the semester when I asked that it all needed to be completed, and in addition broke some of the organization's rules. Multiple members came to me because they felt this board member was not doing their job. It came down to me to address the issue. I sat down with this board member and explained that she had not completed any of the tasks that I asked her to complete and that I felt she needed to get everything done in the next few days or we would need to find a replacement for her. I gave her a chance to speak as to why the work was not completed, but I felt that she was just talking in circles. She started to get angry with me for brining this up, but I explained that it was not a personal issue, but rather a part of my job. This board member and I had been friends for a long time, but being in these power positions has torn our friendship apart. She no longer wants to be my friend and believes that I don't trust her as a person. I was not trying to make a personal judgement, I was just the messenger for what the entire organization was thinking. I believe that our conflicting work ethics and thoughts on procrastination got in the way of having a productive conversation. The situation has still not been completely resolved.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Disfunctional Group Projects

An example of team production from my own life that I think a lot of people experience is group projects. Many times these projects are dread in school as the group usually follows a typical make-up: the A-student, the slacker, the procrastinator, and the arguer. While there may be some variation to this make-up, there is usually some combination of these types of students. When all of these people are forced to come together to create an end product, the process does not always go over smoothly.

Below is a summary of how one of my experiences went in a group project.
A-student: does most of the tough research, writes the introduction and conclusion of the group papers, edits the entire paper, plans the group meetings
Slacker: shows up to group meetings but doesn't contribute, the A-student ends up doing their part for them
Procrastinator: Always has an "excuse" not to come to the group meetings, does their part of the project but not until the night before it's due
Arguer: Comes to the group meetings just to play the devils advocate, is an average student and does assigned work but harms the group harmony.

In the end, all of the work ends up getting done, and the group all receives the same grade. While all the students get the same grade, each student "type" may have a different reaction. The A-student may not want to share the grade with the other members because they feel they did more work. The Slacker may be happy with the grade because they got more than the effort they put in.

If the students were able to give input into the grade, I think it would follow more along the lines of the sharing concept discussed in the article "how to Get the Rich to Share the Marbles". The piece discusses an interesting scenario about 3-year-olds and sharing. In the first case where both 3-year-olds had to pull on the rope to get a marble, the babies "equalized the wealth" about 75% of the time. In the second case where the marbles were already in the cup and no work was needed, the babies only shared 5% of the time. And in the last case where only one baby was required to pull the rope to get a marble for themselves, they only shared 30% of the time. The conclusion that was drawn is that the "'share-the-spoils' button is not pressed by the mere existence of inequality. It is pressed when two or more people collaborated to produce a gain."

To get the A-Student to want to share the grade, the other students would have to put in equal effort. It's not about the output of each member, but more about the effort shown. People are more willing to share and be supportive if they see the other person is putting in effort.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


The idea of Illinibucks sounds appealing at first thought. The idea that one could "buy" their way into getting whatever they want. This sounds a lot like the way capitalism works, where if you have enough money, you can get whatever you want. The use of Illinibucks could be for class registration priority, skipping to the front of the textbook line (which is notoriously long during the first few weeks of school), or for skipping to the front of the line at campus restaurants. The use of this "currency" should be for something that is an inconvenience to students and that they would be willing to pay money to overcome.

The strategic spending of this money is something students will have to consider. Do they allocate their Illinibucks so that they can use a little for multiple wants or do they pour all of their money into one particular thing they really want. It all depends on the elasticity of demand for the services that the Illinibucks can buy. I would imagine that getting priority class registration would be in extremely high demand as that is a major problem at U of I. At least from my experience, getting into the classes I want is a painful process.

The issues that would arise from pricing vary based on if the Illinibucks are over priced or under priced. If they are priced too high, only wealthier students would be able to buy them. This creates an income discrimination that could cause the University a lot of trouble. If they are priced too low, everyone would be able to buy as many as they want and the Illinibucks would become useless.

Another issue I see forming is that of a black market for Illinibucks. If they become scarce because of restrictions to the number sold, students who have the bucks could sell them for much more than the market value. This black market could be dangerous to the purpose of the bucks and would create fierce competition.

Overall, I think there are more problems with this idea than there are benefits. Too much would need to be worked out for this to work correctly. There aren't problems on campus that are that bad that they warrant this kind of program.